Category Archive: Times of Israel

Convicted Nazi who escaped justice dies in Germany at 96

Karl Muenter, who was part of SS unit that massacred 86 Frenchmen in Ascq, denied killing anyone, but defended the shooting; was charged earlier this year for disputing Holocaust

Former Nazi SS soldier Karl Muenter, convicted of killing 86 civilians in France during World War II, is interviewed by the German broadcaster ARD. (YouTube screenshot)

Former Nazi SS soldier Karl Muenter, convicted of killing 86 civilians in France during World War II, is interviewed by the German broadcaster ARD. (YouTube screenshot)

BERLIN, Germany (AP) — Karl Muenter, a former SS soldier who was convicted in France of a wartime massacre but who never served any time for his crimes, has died in northwestern Germany. He was 96.

Marcus Tischbier, a representative of the district mayor’s office in Nordstemmen, the village where Muenter lived, confirmed Monday that the man had died on Friday. He had no further details.

After partisans blew up a railroad line being used to shuttle German troops to Normandy, Muenter and other members of the division were ordered to arrest all males in the town. The victims, ranging from teenagers to the elderly, were lined up and shot.

But by the time he was tracked down in 2013 in the Lower Saxony village where he lived at the home of one of the great-grandson of one of the Ascq victims, the statute of limitations had passed.

A commemorative plaque in Villeneuve-d’Ascq, northern France, commemorating the April 2, 1944, World War II massacre of 86 civilians by a Nazi Germany regiment, as seen on November 13, 2017. (Denis Charlet/AFP)

In a strange twist, prosecutors in Hildesheim charged Muenter earlier this year with incitement, after he appeared on a television documentary in which he defended the shooting of the prisoners in Ascq and disputed the Nazi Holocaust.

Holocaust denial is a crime in Germany and prosecutors opened their investigation after Muenter appeared on the ARD public television show in 2018.

In the documentary, he said he had not shot anyone personally in Ascq, but maintained that the killings were justified because the prisoners had tried to escape.

“If I arrest the men, then I have the responsibility for them and if they run away, I have a right to shoot them,” he said.

He also disputed the fact that six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, saying “we didn’t have that many Jews here at that time, that’s already been disproved.”

ARD also reported that Muenter had close ties to neo-Nazi groups in recent years, talking to them about his experiences in the SS.

His incitement case was still pending trial when he died.

Upon learning of his death, today’s mayor of Villeneuve-d’Ascq, Gerard Caudron, told the local La Voix Du Nord newspaper: “there’s another reason for me not to end up in hell, so I don’t meet him there.

Diary of Polish-Jewish girl murdered in Holocaust published in English

Rina Spiegel’s diary, which has been compared to Anne Frank’s, describes conditions in Nazi-occupied city of Przemysl until her death in 1942

The diarist Renia Spiegel, born in 1924 and murdered by the Nazis in 1942 (Renia Spiegel Foundation)

The diarist Renia Spiegel, born in 1924 and murdered by the Nazis in 1942 (Renia Spiegel Foundation)

JTA — Relatives of a Polish-Jewish woman who was murdered in the Holocaust published in Britain an English-language translation of the manuscript she wrote during the war.

Describing the horrors of World War II in Eastern Europe, “Renia’s Diary: A Young Girl’s Life in the Shadow of the Holocaust” has been compared to the diary that Anne Frank wrote in the Netherlands before she died in a Nazi concentration camp.

Born in Przemysl, in southeast Poland, Spiegel began her book when she was 15. It provides a firsthand account of bombing raids, being forced into hiding and the disappearance of other Jewish families from the Przemysl ghetto set up by the Nazis in 1942, the BBC reported.

Spiegel, who had aspired to be a poet, described falling in love for the first time with a boy named Zygmunt Schwarzer. They shared their first kiss hours before the Nazis reached her hometown.

US appoints new special envoy for Holocaust issues

Cherrie Daniels previously worked with NGOs to promote the role of women peacemakers in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict

Cherrie Daniels and a member of the Jewish community of Subotica, Serbia during her visit there on January 16, 2016. (Courtesy of the Jewish Community of Subotica via JTA)

Cherrie Daniels and a member of the Jewish community of Subotica, Serbia during her visit there on January 16, 2016. (Courtesy of the Jewish Community of Subotica via JTA)

JTA — Cherrie Daniels, who has worked with nongovernmental organizations on promoting the role of women peacemakers in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, is the new US special envoy for Holocaust issues.

Daniels, a fluent Hebrew speaker, is a former director of the US Embassy’s American cultural center in Jerusalem.

Established in 1999, the special envoy for Holocaust issues aims to provide “a measure of justice for Holocaust victims and their families,” Morgan Ortagus, a State Department spokeswoman, told reporters in announcing the appointment last week.

The envoy’s office pursues its goals by “developing and implementing US policy to return Holocaust-era assets to their rightful owners, ensuring the Holocaust is remembered and commemorated in a historically accurate manner, and promoting Holocaust education and research,” Ortagus said.

In 2006, in recognition of her efforts in advancing the role of women peacemakers, Daniels received the Secretary of State’s Swanee Hunt Award for Advancing Women’s Role in Policy Formulation.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/us-appoints-new-special-envoy-for-holocaust-issues/

Austria’s oldest Holocaust survivor dies at 106

Marko Feingold, who lived through 4 camps, remained active throughout his life in speaking out about the Holocaust, as he swore to do while at Auschwitz

In this file photo taken on March 15, 2018 Marko Feingold, then 104-years-old, poses for a picture at the Israeli Cultural Center in Salzburg, Austria. (Joe Klamar/AFP)

In this file photo taken on March 15, 2018 Marko Feingold, then 104-years-old, poses for a picture at the Israeli Cultural Center in Salzburg, Austria. (Joe Klamar/AFP)

VIENNA — The oldest Austrian Holocaust survivor, who lived through four concentration camps, has died at the age of 106, Vienna’s Jewish Community organization (IKG) said Friday.

Marko Feingold, who survived Auschwitz, in Nazi-occupied Poland, and three German concentration camps, died in the city of Salzburg on Thursday after a lung infection, Austrian news agency APA reported.

“I must have spoken to around half a million people all in all,” he told AFP in a 2018 interview, adding he swore to himself in Auschwitz that he would tell his story.

In this file photo taken on March 15, 2018 Marko Feingold, then 104-years-old, speaks at the Israeli Cultural Center in Salzburg, Austria. (Joe Klamar/AFP)

Born on May 28, 1913, in the Austro-Hungarian empire in what is now Slovakia, Feingold was arrested in Prague and deported to Auschwitz in 1940.

“They said I had three months to live. And in fact after two and a half months I was about to succumb to exhaustion when I managed to get transferred to the Neuengamme camp,” he told AFP.

Having lost his father and siblings in the camps, he was freed from Buchenwald when it was liberated by American forces in May 1945.

But he could not go back to Vienna as his group of survivors was prevented from traveling through the Soviet occupation zone which surrounded the city.

“A Russian soldier told us that they had orders not to let us pass. The new [social democratic] chancellor Karl Renner had said: ‘We won’t take back the Jews,’” Feingold said.

Feingold then decided to go to Salzburg near the German border, which was in the American occupation zone. There he founded a network which helped 100,000 Jews emigrate to Britain-administered Palestine.

In this file photo from March 15, 2018 Marko Feingold, then 104-years-old, poses for a picture at Israeli Cultural Centrer in Salzburg, Austria. (Joe Klamar/AFP)

He himself refused to leave Austria despite the difficulties in the face of the country’s deep-rooted anti-Semitism.

After the war Austria took refuge in an official narrative which portrayed the country as a “victim” of the Third Reich and avoided the process of debating complicity in Nazi crimes, as happened in Germany, until well into the 1990s.

“It was impossible to find a job. Someone coming back from the camps had to be a criminal. So I had to strike out on my own,” he said.

He started a clothes shop in Salzburg, which quickly became successful.

Feingold said once attitudes changed, he was “literally covered in honors,” including being received last year by then chancellor Sebastian Kurz and his then deputy Heinz-Christian Strache from the far-right.

Berlin celebrates post-WWII visitor program for expelled Jews

‘I thought I’d never come back,’ says Holocaust survivor Helga Melmed, 91, who returned to her hometown in 1977 as part of the program, now celebrating its 50th anniversary

In this September 11, 2019, photo, Holocaust survivor Helga Melmed poses for a portrait during an event celebrating the 50th anniversary of a program for people expelled and persecuted by the Nazis and bringing tens of thousands of them back to their home city for one-week trips in Berlin. (Paul Zinken/dpa via AP)

In this September 11, 2019, photo, Holocaust survivor Helga Melmed poses for a portrait during an event celebrating the 50th anniversary of a program for people expelled and persecuted by the Nazis and bringing tens of thousands of them back to their home city for one-week trips in Berlin. (Paul Zinken/dpa via AP)

BERLIN, Germany (AP) — Berlin was the last place Helga Melmed had expected to see again.

She was 14 when the Nazis forced her and her family onto a train from their home in the German capital to the Jewish ghetto in Lodz, Poland, in 1941.

For years, she never considered returning to Germany until she was invited in 1977 on a trip by the city of her birth, in a reconciliation program meant to help mend ties with former Berliners who had been forced out by the Nazis.

Now celebrating its 50th anniversary, the program has successfully brought people like Melmed on one-week trips to Berlin to reacquaint themselves with the city. Some 35,000 people have accepted the invitation since it was first issued in 1969, and while the numbers are dwindling a few new participants still come every year.

“I thought I’d never come back,” Melmed, 91, who emigrated to the US via Sweden after the war, told The Associated Press in an interview.

The “invitation program for former refugees” has brought back primarily Jewish emigrants who fled the Nazis, or those like Melmed who survived their machinery of genocide.

In this file photo taken during World War II, Jewish women and children get off coaches after arriving in the Auschwitz extermination camp. (INTERFOTO/AFP)

On Wednesday, she and other former program participants were invited to Berlin City Hall to celebrate the half-century anniversary.

At a ceremony mayor Michael Mueller thanked them for coming back — despite all they suffered at the hands of the Germans.

“Many people followed our invitation, people who had lost everything they loved,” he said. “I want to express my strong gratitude to you for putting your trust in us.”

Despite skepticism at the time that anyone persecuted by the Nazis would want to return, in 1970 — one year after the program’s launch — there was already a waiting list of 10,000 former Berliners who wanted to come back for a visit.

More than 100 other German cities and towns have instituted similar programs but no municipality has brought back as many former residents as the capital.

Berlin, of course, also had the biggest Jewish community before the Holocaust. In 1933, the year the Nazis came to power, around 160,500 Jews lived in Berlin. By the end of World War II in 1945 their numbers had diminished to about 7,000 — through emigration and extermination.

All in all, some six million European Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.

Melmed’s father was shot dead in the Lodz ghetto — where the Nazis concentrated Jews and forced them to work in factories — a few months after their arrival and her mother died of exhaustion a few months later, shortly after Melmed’s 15th birthday.

Melmed, who lives in Venice, Florida, received her invitation under the reconciliation program 42 years ago.

In this September 11, 2019 photo, Holocaust survivor Helga Melmed poses for a portrait during an event celebrating the 50th anniversary of a program for people expelled and persecuted by the Nazis and bringing tens of thousands of them back to their home city for one-week trips in Berlin. (Paul Zinken/dpa via AP)

“One day, out of the blue, I found a letter in the mailbox inviting me to come back for a visit,” the retired nurse said at the hotel where she was staying with two of her four children and a grandson.

“So, in 1977, my husband and I traveled to Berlin.”

They were part of an organized group tour of dozens of other former Berliners who had been persecuted by the Nazis.

“I don’t know if the trip was a dream or a nightmare,” Melmed said. One afternoon, she went for a coffee at Berlin’s famous Kempinski Hotel — today called the Bristol Hotel — just like she used to do as a little girl with her mother and dad, a banking executive.

“It was heartbreaking,” Melmed said.

Her life story is chronicled in the exhibition “Charter Flight into the Past” about the program, which opened Thursday at Berlin’s City Hall and will run through October 9.

Johannes Tuchel, the director of the German Resistance Memorial Center, which curated the exhibition, said that many returnees had conflicting emotions.

They didn’t trust the Germans — especially in the early years of the program, when many people they saw in the streets still belonged to the Nazi generation. Often, memories of loss and pain were stirred up by the visit, but at the same time many were also able to reconnect with a city that harbored many happy childhood mementos for them.

For Melmed, closure came only at an old age. In 2018, when she turned 90, she decided to return once again to Berlin. It was then that she met the current tenants of her old family home in the Wilmersdorf neighborhood of Berlin. They invited her back into the apartment and organized a plaque-laying ceremony last week to commemorate her parents on this year’s visit.

Last week, city officials presented her with her original birth certificate and her parents’ marriage certificate.

“Now it’s all closure for me,” Melmed said with a peaceful smile as she touched her golden necklace with a Star of David pendant. “It doesn’t hurt anymore.”

https://www.timesofisrael.com/berlin-celebrates-post-wwii-visitor-program-for-expelled-jews/

Demonstrators hang plaque honoring Lithuanian Nazi collaborator

Vilnius municipality had earlier removed a memorial to Jonas Noreika, who is believed to have personally overseen the murder of Jews when the Nazis controlled Lithuania

This memorial plaque to Nazi collaborator Jonas Noreika was removed from the Library of Academy of science in Vilnius in July 2019, but demonstrators reinstalled a new one in September. (Alma Pater/Wikimedia Commons via JTA)

This memorial plaque to Nazi collaborator Jonas Noreika was removed from the Library of Academy of science in Vilnius in July 2019, but demonstrators reinstalled a new one in September. (Alma Pater/Wikimedia Commons via JTA)

Demonstrators in Lithuania’s capital city installed without a permit a plaque honoring a Nazi collaborator after the municipality had an earlier plaque dedicated to him removed.

Nationalists hastily mounted the plaque they had made for Jonas Noreika in Vilnius on Thursday, on an external wall of the Wroblewski Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences, during a demonstration against the removal of an earlier monument honoring him in July.

The Jewish Community of Lithuania condemned the decision to mount another plaque for Noreika to replace the one it and the Simon Wiesenthal Center had lobbied for years to have removed. That plaque was smashed in April and repaired, and then removed in July by order of Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius.

“We urge the Lithuanian authorities to remove the new plaque and prosecute those responsible for breaking the law” in installing it, Efraim Zuroff, the Center’s Eastern Europe director, wrote.

The library whose wall again features a plaque for Noreika told the BNS news agency it does not intend to have the plaque removed.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/demonstrators-hang-plaque-honoring-lithuanian-nazi-collaborator/

Dutch museum defends exhibition on Nazi design, denies glorifying Nazis

Museum in Den Bosch bans photography at ‘Design of the Third Reich’ exhibit; opening met with protests

Design Museum Den Bosch (Google Maps)

Design Museum Den Bosch (Google Maps)

A museum in the Netherlands has banned visitors from taking pictures of an exhibition on design during the Third Reich to prevent any Nazi glorification on social media.

The Design Museum Den Bosch also put extra security in each room of the “Design of the Third Reich” exhibit as it opened Sunday.

On its website, the museum says the exhibition is aimed at showing the “contribution of design to the development of the evil Nazi ideology.”

According to the Guardian, the exhibit has been criticized by the Association of Dutch Anti-fascists. Members of the local communist party held a protest near the museum’s entrance as it opened Sunday.

Timo de Rijk, the museum’s director, said he assured the protesters the exhibit would not glorify the Nazis.

“They are concerned that maybe we are glorifying it all. I would not be doing this if I thought we were, but I can understand that they are aware of that kind of evil in history,” he told the British newspaper.

De Rijk also said he was not aware of plans by either far-right or far-left figures to visit the museum.

“From the start we explain that this was a racist ideology and that the party’s aim was to establish a racist volk culture. The exhibition has the feel of a documentary,” he said.

Though the exhibit includes items on loan from the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin and the Institute of Contemporary History in Munich, neither partnered with the Den Bosch museum due to the sensitivity of the issue, the Guardian said.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/dutch-museum-defends-exhibition-on-nazi-design-denies-glorifying-nazis/

Dallas Holocaust museum expands focus to other genocides, human rights struggles

Museum opening Sept. 18 is five times bigger than in previous location; greater scope aims to remind visitors of Holocaust lessons’ ongoing relevance

In this July 29, 2019, photo, Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum President and CEO, Mary Pat Higgins, pauses as she gives a tour of the museum in Dallas, to look at a wall size image of Jews marching. When Dallas’ Holocaust museum reopens in a few weeks it will not only be in a new building five times the size of its previous location, but will take visitors on a journey that also includes modern-day genocides and the evolution of human and civil rights in the U.S. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

In this July 29, 2019, photo, Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum President and CEO, Mary Pat Higgins, pauses as she gives a tour of the museum in Dallas, to look at a wall size image of Jews marching. When Dallas’ Holocaust museum reopens in a few weeks it will not only be in a new building five times the size of its previous location, but will take visitors on a journey that also includes modern-day genocides and the evolution of human and civil rights in the U.S. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

DALLAS (AP) — When the Holocaust museum in Dallas opens the doors to its new building, visitors will be not only learning about the mass murder of Jews during World War II but also other genocides that have happened around the world, as well as human rights struggles in the US

The newly renamed Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum is the latest in the US to broaden its permanent exhibit and embolden its efforts to inspire visitors to take action to make the world a better place.

Expanding the focus to include more recent atrocities and human rights struggles helps draw in more visitors to be reminded that the lessons from the Holocaust are still relevant.

The museum opening Sept. 18 in Dallas is five times bigger than its previous location — a jump from 6,000 square feet (557 sq. meters) to 55,000 square feet (5,110 sq. meters). Museum officials hope for 200,000 visitors a year — more than double the previous figure.

The Holocaust Museum Houston has already seen a jump in visitors since reopening in June after a renovation and expansion that more than doubled its size. The primary focus of the original museum was the Holocaust, but it now details other genocides and has tributes to human rights leaders including Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, who as a child in Pakistan began advocating for girls’ education.

“We look at it like as: if we can get them in the door and attract them on — it might be something like a social activism — then they can also benefit from learning about the Holocaust when they’re here,” said Kelly Zuniga, CEO of the Houston museum.

In this July 29, 2019, photo, Mary Pat Higgins, President and CEO of the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum in Dallas stands in a large theatre that was under construction. The theatre is a 250-seat Cinemark NextGen Theater with a 50-foot screen. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

In Cincinnati, the Nancy and David Wolf Holocaust and Humanity Center’s move in January into Union Terminal train station meant that it could include a gallery showcasing people who have made positive changes in their community. “We examine individuals who stood up and who seized the moment and we talk about their character strengths,” said Jodi Elowitz, the center’s education director.

Two years ago the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie opened as part of its permanent exhibit the Take a Stand Center, which is focused on human rights. “Hopefully they’re getting knowledge, they’re finding their passion or their particular cause or issue that they’re interested in,” said Kelley Szany, vice president of education and exhibitions for the museum.

The Dallas museum’s orientation video asks the question: Why should visitors care?

“The rest of the museum goes on to not answer the question, because we don’t provide answers. We do provide direction. We expect you to be able to answer the question however you were impacted,” said Eddie Jacobs, who designed the exhibit with fellow Berenbaum Jacobs Associates founder Michael Berenbaum.

The gallery detailing genocides that happened before and after the Holocaust uses sculpture and graphic novels to help visitors understand the tactics that led to the mass killings. The sculpture on the mass murder of Tutsis by the Hutus in Rwanda in 1994 includes machetes and victims’ racial identification cards. A graphic novel notes that polarization tactics that led to the genocide included Tutsis being referred to as cockroaches, pointing out that the Nazis portrayed Jews as rats and poisonous mushrooms.

In this July 29, 2019, photo, an exhibit hangs from the ceiling in part of the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum in Dallas. This area of the museum educates visitors of genocide. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

The last stage of the visit turns to the US for an exploration of how American ideals compare to reality, Berenbaum said. Visitors use interactive touchscreens to explore their own attitudes and biases. As they end their visit, they can learn about volunteer opportunities.

“The Holocaust is remembered. The question then becomes deeper: How is it remembered and what are we to do with that memory?” Berenbaum said.

Max Glauben, who as Jewish teenager from Poland spent time in Nazi concentration camps, where his parents and brother were killed, helped found the Dallas museum. Glauben, who immigrated to the US after WWII, hopes the museum inspires people to take inventory of their own lives.

“Maybe after seeing all this they realize that maybe we should become better,” said Glauben, 91.